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All Illinoisans Now Required To Wear Face Coverings In Public, Pritzker Says — And Essential Workers Must Have Them, Too

Illinoisans will have to wear face coverings of some sort when in public and unable to practice social distancing.

A pedestrian is seen wearing a protective mask in downtown Chicago as fears of COVID-19 rise on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Everyone in Illinois is now required to cover their faces and all essential businesses must provide such coverings to their employees, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday.

Pritzker’s announcement came at the same time as he extended the state’s stay at home order to May 30. He started recommending everyone wear masks in early April and has said for weeks he was considering making it a requirement because it can help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Illinoisans will not have to seek out medical face masks, which have been in short supply, but will simply have to wear face coverings of some sort when in public and unable to practice social distancing. That includes in stores and outside when near other people.

Nearby suburbs and other major cities, including New York City, have implemented similar requirements. The Centers for Disease Control has recommended people wear cloth face coverings, as well.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaking during a Thursday press conference before Pritzker’s announcement, said the city would work to ensure all Chicagoans have access to coverings and won’t punish those who struggle to comply.

“I do worry a little bit about that [availability], though, and the ability of our residents, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, to be able to access materials,” Lightfoot said. “Once we see what the guidance is from the governor, we’re gonna work hard to make sure we can actually give our residents the ability to comply. We’re not gonna ticket and arrest people because they don’t have face coverings, but it is to their benefit … .”

The CDC has created guides for making coverings with or without sewing. Coverings can be made out of anything from jeans to old T-shirt or even bandanas, according to the agency.

The agency recommends people wash their masks or coverings routinely in a washing machine.

RELATED: Confused About Face Masks? An Infectious Disease Expert Answered All Of Our Questions


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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